Shooting down missiles only seems hard. But, really, it's as easy as throwing a ball in the air at least, according to the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency."Imagine trying to hit a ball that has been thrown towards you with another ball in mid air," the Agency says on its website. "Better yet, TRY IT!"
What you need:Two, synthetic foam (or equivalent) soft-sided ballsAt least one friend to helpDirections:1. Decide which of you will be the target missile and which will be the interceptor.2. The person who is the target missile throws her or his ball into the air in an arch (as if it is a missile following the curve of the Earth) toward the other person with the interceptor ball.3. The person with the interceptor ball then needs to try and hit the target ball with the interceptor ball, knocking it away before the target ball is able to hit him or her.A five-launch test of the game by Global Security Newswire "resulted in four misses and one midcourse hit that failed to significantly alter the path of the target."But that may not be such an unrealistic ratio. After all, recent anti-missile tests have flopped spectacularly. A former Pentagon testing director recently said the current missile defense plan was "simply not up to the job." And an American Physical Society report said that catching a missile as it was launching would be an extremely difficult task for America's current and near-future anti-missile technologies.MDA spokesman Chris Taylor told Global Security Newswire that the ball game just a way to entertain "a younger audience and people that surf the Web."If that's the case, consider John Pike, with GlobalSecurity.org, a fuddy-duddy. He says, "They've got too much time on their hands. I mean, its not even a good game."THERE'S MORE: "Despite their attempt to make missile defense a hands-on physics experiment, what the Missile Defense Agency really shows is that missile defense is a losing game most of the time," Philip Coyle, the former Pentagon testing chief, writes.
It's not impossible to win; once in a while you may get lucky with your Nerf ball... (But) unlike Nerf balls, intercontinental ballistic missiles travel at thousands of miles per hour. Try the game by hurling golf balls or steel ball bearings, instead of Nerf balls, and you'll get the idea. And maybe a few broken windows. too.Recently the American Physical Society, a group of U.S. professional physicists, reported why missile defense in the boost-phase is so difficult. You have to be very close and very fast, or you'll miss. Try it with Nerf balls and you'll see that the physicists are correct.Also, unlike Nerf balls, ICBMs can dispense decoys and countermeasures in the middle of flight that look just like real warheads. Sort of like a Nerf ball cloning itself in mid flight. Try the game where the attacker throws a handful of Nerf balls, not just one. You won't be able to tell which one to go after.In the terminal phase, the game gets even more interesting. If the attacker throws a ball close to the defender, the defender has a chance, although not a good one. But if the attacker throws Nerf balls at targets all over the back yard (think of the back yard as the United States), the poor defender can't cover the back yard with enough Nerf balls to do the job. The size of the "defended area" is critical in terminal defense.Finally, try the game where the attacker just hurls his Nerf ball straight at the defender, not upward in a long looping arc. That's like a cruise missile. Cruise missiles fly at low altitude, skimming under the defender's radar. Saddam Hussein proved that this works during the war in Iraq. His cruise missiles were not even detected by the U.S. Patriot anti-missile system, and so they were not shot down. Fortunately, Saddam's cruise missiles didn't hit anyone, the result of lousy targeting and guidance systems on his cruise missiles.AND MORE: Oh, dear God. There's not only a missile defense nerf game. There's a coloring book, too.